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Dolores Ferdinand Marsalis Dies at 80

From a musical family, wife of Ellis and influential mother of famous sons

Ellis and Dolores Marsalis (photo courtesy of Elsa Hahne/OffBeat)
Ellis and Dolores Marsalis (photo courtesy of Elsa Hahne/OffBeat)

Dolores Ferdinand Marsalis, the matriarch of a family considered New Orleans musical royalty including husband Ellis Jr. and sons Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and Wynton (and two more sons, Mboya Kenyatta and poet Ellis III), died on July 18 at age 80. The cause per news reports was pancreatic cancer.

Born Dolores Ferdinand in 1937 in New Orleans, La., the future Mrs. Marsalis came from a family with its own musical heritage. Her great uncle Wellman Braud played in the early iterations of Duke Ellington’s big band and has been credited with inventing the “walking” bass style, and she was more distantly related to the Dejan and Eugene families (of various New Orleans brass bands).

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